Boats, elephants, open jeep safari, canoes – Kerala has more than one option to get you cruising…
My hubby – Avie and I have longed to go to Kerala for the past 6 years since our marriage. But, for one or the other reason, other destinations always sneaked into our scheme of things while Kerala just did not happen. Until Oct. 2009. It was as if we would go to Kerala when Kerala will want us to come rather than the other way round..!
But then, I have always believed, what ever happens, has a reason behind it. Now, in retrospect, it seems it was best that we went to Kerala at a time when Pari (our daughter) was old enough to cherish every small thing that this nature-rich land had to offer. Had she been younger than 4 years, she wouldn’t have appreciated the bounties of nature – the beach, the backwaters, the boat rides, the safari, the elephant ride…well, not just ride, but bathing the elephant, feeding that giant animal and appreciating how it interacts and responds to human instructions..!
Starting with this post, I will photo-essay (in several parts) the mesmerizing beauty of Kerala – the southern-most state of India. But, take my word for it – however much I may try, any word, any picture cannot do justice to the unfathomable natural beauty of this place.
Planning time, places to see and places to stay:
We have Club Mahindra ‘Red’ Season membership which means that we can book their resorts even during the peak periods. But then, as tourists, we prefer avoiding crowded destinations and high traffic seasons. So, instead of the Novembers and Decembers, we preferred October when the monsoon rains in Kerala are bidding good byes. Secondly, Club Mahindra has resorts in select places in Kerala covering back waters, beaches and the higher altitudes. But we also wanted to visit some other places where, unfortunately Club Mahindra does not have a property.
Via Kochi rather than Thiruvananthapuram (old name – Trivandrum)
We chose to go via Kochi (old name – Cochin) instead of Thiruvananthapuram, firstly because this historical city has a lot to offer to curious tourists like us. The 15th century Jew town being one of them. Secondly, places like Ashtamudi, Alleppey and Munnar would be accessible through the Cochin route. Thirdly, flights from Delhi to Trivendrum are more expensive than Delhi to Cochin
But sigh! Club Mahindra does not have a property in Kochi and Alleppey. Hence, after much research, I found out this ideal resort in Kochi via a flickr contact who had traveled extensively in Kerala. He suggested the ‘Cherai Beach Resort’ 14 kilometers away from the Kochi city.
We had a strong testimony from him about this resort’s eco-friendly construction, uncrowded feel and value for money. One look at the pictures from their website, and we knew that this was the place for us!
The resort turned out to be more than what we expected. Built upon the backwaters of Cherai, this place was absolutely aligned with nature. Infact, to reach there, you would be driving through narrow lanes running almost into the paddy fields and backwaters! It was kind of unnerving to see the driver negotiate those sharp, narrow turns. It felt as if one inch of wrong judgment and the taxi would land right into the waters!
The greens are so dense and thick, spotting the cottages is a task
And some more adventure!
And yes, I forgot to mention, the monsoons that had retreated by then came back with a vengeance only couple of days before we landed in Kochi. The entire state was in knee-deep waters. We reached the resort in the evening and got a first hand experience of the famous Kerala monsoons when the resort staff handed over huge umbrellas to walk down till the cottage. And the walk turned out to be a bit of an escapade in itself. The winds were so strong and overpowering that the umbrella poised everywhere else except over our heads! And, with all the negotiating curves and tiny bridges that finally led us to the cottage, our adrenalin was pumping more than usual! Phew!
Our cottage, named ‘Thottaruvu’, was bang opposite the serene backwaters, offering unobstructed view of the lagoon, the birds, the boatmen and the Chinese fishing nets. The cottages have been built on the waters of the lagoon without interfering with their natural state or flow. The waters, infact, meander through the entire resort premises. Small bridges have been built for the residents to move from their cottage to any other part of the resort. Even, tiny boats have been provided to row around through the resort! Sounds exotic? Yes, it is – a truly invigorating experience!
The Cottage Interiors
Well, it’s nothing like one can imagine! It’s simple and yet unique. The coconut tree stands tall – right in the corner of the room and infact springs out in the open – through the ceiling! The windows start from the floor level so you can see the lagoon water outside on which the cottage has been constructed. The walls, the paintings, the balcony – all exude a rustic, unsophisticated charm. Each cottage is at a reasonable distance from the other one, so one has an isolated, private stay. Each has its own hammock, swings, tree house.
Inside our cottage – the Coconut tree stands guarding!
We could touch and splash the water sitting right there in the room!
The interiors have an earthy feel to them…
Nothing fancy and yet so much to do!
Lazing on the hammock with a book in hand would be the ideal way to relax. For the photography buff, this is the place to be – with an opportunity to click at every nook and cranny! Besides, it’s an ideal place to do some fishing or just feed the fishes. There are plenty of them in the waters surrounding the cottages.
The tree house, swings and sand pits can keep the kids busy for hours.
And then, something that’s so very synonymous with Kerala – the Ayurvedic massage. The resort has an Ayurvedic massage centre – across the lagoon! To make one experience the most of that place’s natural ambiance, we were taken to the centre via the traditional boat.
Lazing around is tough for these curious lil fellows!
The Lily Pond – this is another place kids can spend time watching the lovely blooms, the peculiar coloured frongs and dragon flies!
And the icing on the cake – the Cherai Beach!
The golden, uncrowded Cherai beach right in front of the resort make this place a treat for the soul. Water babies that we all are – we spent hours there in the sun soaking plenty of Vitamin D but gaining a strong tan in the bargain!
Aaaah, and the food! How can I not talk about that? Simple, delicious, flavorful – particularly the local Kerala cuisine. Yes, an avid foodie that I am, the flavour still lingers on my mind….!
With an exciting start to our trip, we were all set to devour every bite and flavour that this state had to offer on its plantain-leaf platter…
Wait until I unravel the colours of the Jew Town – in the second part of this post!
I will do a second part of this post covering Jew Town and the Elephant Training Centre – Kodanad.
Till then, cruise along with dreams in your heart and fire in your belly!
Enjoy some more views!
All photos in this post are copyright – Rashmie Jaaju. Using any of these in any media format whatsoever – print or digital – without my exclusive permission will be illegal and a punishable act.